Credibility

“Thank you for your credibility, Kate” she said, at the moment I had turned to walk out of the room.

“You said you would be here, and you were” she had continued, in a tone that made her sincerity clear, and validated the surprise I felt at the compliment, the rarity she experienced in giving it.

I had come to her to follow up on a discussion we began the night before. She had made a request that I could not grant at that time, but I had promised to return in the morning to follow up. From early in the morning it was clear to me that I still would be unable to come through for her, to resolve the matter in her favor. I had shown up nonetheless, to apologetically deliver the bad news, in person. I knew I would tell her I couldn’t do it, but that I would continue my efforts to see if the situation would change throughout the day, to at least allow for a continued shred of hope.

I entered the room disappointed, even nervous at the task of telling her no. I had anticipated, at least in the back of my mind, the potential for a confrontational response from her. The reasons for her request were valid, but the outcome she desired was simply not possible. She was obviously disappointed, but understanding. Thankful, if not encouraging, that I continue to try to fix things.

Her words upon my exit had stopped me in my tracks. Gratitude for something with which I always hope to function, but realize is not always present. For if it was, the acknowledgement of my credibility would be moot, as if she had thanked me for breathing.

Credibility. It isn’t about being able to give more, produce more, please people more. Rather, it is about focusing on only making promises I intend to keep, furthermore, promises I actually can keep. Not only that, but credibility requires that I communicate what I intend to do before I begin the process of doing it.

The outcome, for her, would have been no different, regardless of whether I had shown up to tell her myself or not. But if I had chosen to hide, to break my promise, the disappointment she felt would not just be for the outcome, but in me as well.

Since my incident with the mom in the room and the disappointing news I chose to deliver in person, I have shifted my daily focus. It hasn’t been long, but so far the results have been positive. In health care, sometimes one of the major things our families want from us, as caregivers, is a little credibility. The most common complaint I field from the families I have cared for is the inconsistency they see, whether it be an inconsistency between different team members, or even worse, individual inconsistencies. People saying they will do one thing, and never communicating, never acknowledging if or why things have changed. A little credibility goes a long way in building confidence and satisfaction.

And this isn’t just true in hospitals, or even in business. In personal lives we could all use a little more of this too. I think about how often I say I will do something or be somewhere, and how quickly I let things get in the way and change my plans. Some people may call it flaky, but I’m starting to think that, unfortunately, I simply just suffer from a profound lack of credibility sometimes.

But it isn’t too late! I am going to try to fix it. And you probably can fix it too. What better people we would be, better professionals, lovers, and friends if we focused a little bit more on our own credibility.

Home

Given the fact that we just celebrated the 4th of July, a holiday focused on the birth of our country, its independence, and our patriotism, I have been observing the fact that there are a few things we Americans are all about. We love junk food, football, and day drinking. We like thinking we are the best at anything, and even more so, love finding ways to become the best while investing the least amount of effort possible. We love saving those less fortunate than us, using our size and power to protect them. We love cotton candy and cotton, especially if we can eat the former while dressed head to toe in the latter. We love fireworks, hotdogs, and bonfires. All of these things are great, and likely each deserving of their own blog post, but for today I want to focus on this. We, as Americans, love milestones and their celebrations.

So, as such, today it feels appropriate to celebrate the milestone that it has been one year since I began a big scary journey. Actually, realistically, it wasn’t big or scary. I sold my house, moved my life into storage, and moved myself into New York City. I traded a three bedroom, 2000 sq. foot house with a porch, and deck, and a fenced in yard for a studio apartment not much bigger than the unit I was renting back “home” for all of my belongings. I emptied all of the memories out of my first house on Eldorado Street. I said goodbye to my friends who felt like family. I left a job that I loved full of people I respected. I filled my grocery cart one last time at Wegmans. I bought comfortable shoes and I piled a few bins of clothes into my car with my mom for the drive to New York City.

I remember crossing the George Washington Bridge, the city skyline visible to the south as we drove over the Hudson. I remember Washington Heights, and driving down Riverside to the 80′s, admiring the quaint streets and quaint families that inhabited them. I remember being excited by the noise, the hustle, and the infinite options of unknown.

I remember mourning what I was leaving behind, all while hoping, trusting, expecting for it to be replaced with things equally good, maybe even something more, something better.

I am a dreamer, a big thinker, a make-believer. But no game of dress-ups in my childhood, or daydreaming in my adolescence had prepared me to imagine what I would find here this year.

It was probably mid-August before it happened the first time. It was likely a day off. I am sure the sun was shining. I left my apartment, perhaps on an errand, or perhaps, with nowhere special to go. As I walked, the sun hit my face and filled me with warmth. A smile spread across my face and I am sure I giggled like a little girl. I was just so happy to be here. It was a joy I had forgotten, or had maybe never known in my life before.

It was mid-October when a friend from Syracuse texted to ask how I was. I was moving out of my studio and into a one bedroom apartment. I had just survived the famed New York nightmare of finding and renting an apartment. I had sold both of my kidneys and that of my father and a friend to secure the lease of a rent controlled apartment. (There may not have actually been organ procurement involved, but it sure felt that way at the time.) In addition, between first, last, security deposit, and a broker’s fee, I had about $200 in my bank account. My grandmother had saved the day with a loan, my mother had driven a 14ft truck through city streets, and I was finally going to have a kitchen again.

I feel authentic.

I told her.

I had shrunk myself down to fit my life before. I felt like I was constantly changing myself to make things fit right, instead of changing those other things. I finally, for the first time in years, feel completely, authentically, me.

And that has not only continued, but has grown. It feels like longer than a year. The girl I was before feels farther away than last July. I miss my Syracuse friends everyday, and lately I really miss the deck and the grill, and the yard at Eldorado. But the fit I found in the last year, the me I found, and the life I built, I wouldn’t trade that for the world.

I could not possibly have known it yet, but last year, as I drove across the bridge, down Riverside, and turned left toward the park, I wasn’t just moving, I was moving home.

My first night in NYC after a very hot move!

My first night in NYC after a very hot move!

This was yesterday, celebrating my New York-iversary at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

This was yesterday, celebrating my New York-iversary at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens

20/20

Walk a mile in my shoes we say with annoyance, frustration, or that worst of all “I told you so” tone to imply that someone would understand you better if they spent a bit of time being you.

Empathy it screams. Have a bit of empathy, please.

In nursing school that empathy was forced down our throats like a horse pill necessary for daily survival. They drilled us with the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy being pity or compassion for someone, sorrow for their situation without getting so close as to actually feel their pain. Empathy on the other hand, as we are taught, is the far superior alternative of putting yourself in someone else’s position to better understand them and meet their needs. In doing so, we become closer to them and more effective in providing emotional support.

We as a society obsess over each other’s constant lack of empathy. Everywhere you look there is someone blaming the root of a problem on someone else’s lack of empathy. A friend’s callous comment, an ex-boyfriend’s selfish act, a celebrity’s poorly chosen words, even a politician’s one-sided choice. From a distance, one could think that the root all of the world’s problems, according to Americans, siphon down to a lack of empathy.

I disagree. Perhaps it is because the majority of my friends are nurses, although I would argue it is not. But either way, among the people I know and love, the people I observe daily, there is an epidemic more damaging, more widespread, and more palpable than lack of empathy; insecurity.

I have thought about this often in recent months as I transition into a new and different position at work. As I watch my body begin the inevitable changes that the passing of time will cause. As I have battled my weight and the struggles that come when I am not sick and my usual abnormally thin self. When my body plateaus at a more realistic weight, causing clothes to actually fit and not every person I pass to comment on how skinny I am. I feel the need to shrink away in private as my BMI reaches “healthy”, suddenly and unusually insecure in my own skin.

In addition, I have watched my friends as they transition through first pregnancies, difficult break-ups, wedding preparations, and the damaging general culture of female driven feelings of chronic inadequacy. We try to battle against them, but only bury ourselves deeper into our obsession over the unattainable greatness of six pack abs and perky chests. Fooling ourselves into believing that attaining them will make any difference at all.

All I ever wanted was to be captivating. Like in the movies when the beautiful heroine walks into the room and everyone stops. The clink of dishes dulls to silence. The hum of voices falls mute. Forks and hands suspended in the air, mouths full of food, paused mid bite.

My friends wanted to be doctors, lawyers, marine biologists. I wanted to be the girl who leaves you with a mouth full of food, fine silver awkwardly raised, wondering what could possibly be worse; to blink and miss my splendor as you swallow your steak, or to stay there in the moment, soaking me in, wondering why people chew their beef anyways as the tender bite in your mouth grows cold and tough.

When I danced I felt this glimpse of playing captor. How funny it is to strive to trap people in your presence.

Even so, it is all I wanted. To hold them there, watching my body as I turned and jumped, or simply raised my arms in that beautiful way that causes your heart to skip a beat.

Ten years later, there is a man in my life. When he looks at me, I feel myself pulled back onto the stage, spun like Cinderella into a tutu and tights. In his eyes, I feel captivating. In some moments, as I turn toward him and again catch a glimpse of myself in his eyes I begin to wish I could stay there forever. All of my insecurity, inadequacy, and self-loathing melt away. There is no room for them there.

This past week I celebrated my birthday. I spent the day showered with love. One person after another reaching out to express their kind birthday wishes. It brought me back to some of the birthdays of my past. The year my brother stayed up all night creating a beautiful painting for me, then served me breakfast in bed as the paint slowly dried. The year a dear friend filled my hotel room with balloons as our families were all out of town for a wedding the day of my birthday. These acts weren’t just about a well-selected gift or a kind word. They were acts of love. The kind you perform for someone you love and value, the kind that leave the recipient feeling overwhelmingly cherished.

Yet again so very loved on my birthday this year. In fact, I feel so very loved every day. I started to realize how different the way I view myself is from the way others do. To me, I am 130lbs of flaws. I could list them for days and still come up with more. I would tell you my over-confidence is a flaw in one breath and in the next that my insecurity is.

But to the people around me, I am none of those things. I am smart, funny, kind, compassionate, empathetic, tall, skinny, silly, confident, complex, vulnerable, growing, changing, and learning.

So explain to me this. If all of the eyes around me see me that way, why should mine instead trust my own voice giving me the constant list of flaws and faults? Why should you trust your own opinion of yourself over the eyes of those around you?

Perhaps the problem isn’t so much walking in each other’s shoes as it is seeing in each other’s eyes. What if our focus has been all wrong? Perhaps it is finally time to change it, and then maybe, just maybe we can begin to treat our epidemic of insecurity.

Honor Society Induction

I had the honor and privilege last night of being inducted into the Honor Society at Le Moyne College, my alma mater, as a community leader. In addition, I had been invited to give the keynote address for the ceremony which paired both the honor society induction as well as a recognition of the graduates from the nursing programs graduate and undergraduate tracks, separate from the larger school wide graduation they will attend next week. The whole evening was such an honor, as well as a wonderful experience, to be back in a place I spent so much time, yet feels so far in the past. It was wonderful to see the way the program has grown since I was completing my bachelor’s in a cohort of less that 20 students.

I have included below a slightly shorted version of what I spoke to the graduates and inductees last night. I hope you enjoy. And to all those of you with a graduation of your own in the coming weeks, Congratulations!

Le Moyne College Address

Day one of orientation to my first nursing job, in the NICU at St. Joseph’s Hospital, sometime around 8am I decided that Nursing was hard. My orientation had felt like starting over. In many ways, it was, since so little of what I did on a daily basis there had been covered at all by the adult med-surge heavy clinical time of the St. Joseph’s College of Nursing program. I remember on that first day, standing awkwardly, over a human the size of my hand, arms spread, individually inserted through the isolette doors, sweating, as panic took over and I realized that maybe God hadn’t granted me good enough hearing to assess and calculate the heart rate of a neonate, at 180 beats per minute through a cheap disposable stethoscope that crushed into my ears leaving pain for minutes after they were removed.

I hear nothing I panicked.

Wait, is the heart rate really nothing? I wondered, looking to my preceptor for some kind of guidance as the anxiety in me swelled.

Surely she too would look at least a little panicked if this baby were truly pulseless, I comforted myself and listened on. Waiting, as my eyes darted from clock, to baby, to monitor, and back again.

Close your eyes.

I heard, from over my shoulder. And as I did, I began to hear it, the slight, methodical, regular, hum of a racing neonatal heartbeat.

You can do this. I told myself. And finally, I think I started to believe it.

Nursing school had left me feeling run down, as I am sure everyone in this room can appreciate. I began to question everything, chiefly, my decision to become a nurse. In my last semester I had panicked, not yet finding a specialty that seemed to fit. By coincidence I had landed in the NICU. And by the second set of vital signs, eyes closed, I knew I was in the right spot.

Four months into my nursing career, as I finished my extensive orientation, I was back in the classroom at Le Moyne, finishing my bachelor’s in the same place it had all begun, four years prior, having left Ly Moyne after my Sophomore year to attend Nursing School. So in the spring of 2008 as my “college” friends graduated with Bachelor’s degrees I had crossed the stage to accept my Associate’s degree from St. Joseph’s College of Nursing. So there I was, back at Le Moyne to wrap up my degree, while working my first job as a Registered Nurse.

I came into it frustrated. All of my friends were gone, moving on to grad school, first jobs, internships, new cities. Their undergraduate work was behind them. I dragged myself to the first weeks of classes irritated, as if my career, my future, had nothing to gain from another year of college. I knew my parents valued my completing my degree, and somewhere deep inside my stubborn head I too knew I would benefit from it. But at the time, in the moment, it felt useless.

It was a few weeks into the semester when for our Professional Issues and Trends class Barb Carranti guided us to a hidden computer lab somewhere below the science center where we were instructed to write, for an hour and a half, about a day at work. Start to finish, what we did, not the subjective things, but rather, the objective data; the tasks, the procedures, the assessments and subsequent interventions.

To this day, I remember exactly what I wrote. At first I sat there struggling with the assignment, unsure of what to write or how to write it. I stared at the blank document for what felt like hours, struggling to put into words a day of nursing. Finally I gave in, starting with one word, and then another, until suddenly, with a rush I felt physically move through me the words began to pour out and onto the page. It had been my first trip to MRI with an intubated baby. At a few hours of age he had begun having presumed seizures, they continued through the next few days and were confirmed by an EEG. We were taking him to the MRI scan to evaluate the cause by looking at his brain. He had seized on the way down and continued to throughout the test, requiring additional sedation to keep him still for reliable results. Moments after we had returned to the NICU and settled in, the attending physician pulled me aside to tell me the MRI results, prior to sitting the parents down to discuss with them that anoxic injury was seen over 90% of their sons brain. His prognosis was grim. The doctor cried, the parents cried. I too was given permission to cry, and so I closed my eyes, and made no effort to fight back the few tears that finally made it down my face.

As I sat there in the lab, writing about the day, I cried again. This time, the tears came more easily. I was feeling all of the same emotions, but they were different. I was reliving all of the same activities, but they too suddenly carried a new weight and significance.

I learned two powerful things in that lab that day. First, the intended lesson: that what nurses do and what we say that we do are so rarely on the same page. That when we are asked to write or talk about our work we struggle, and usually, we either give up or simply focus on comfort and hand holding. Two incredibly important pieces of what we do, but still, just two of the many pieces. I left class that day with a new ownership over my daily work. A connection to it that has stayed with me in the years since, an awareness of the variety, depth, and importance of the daily tasks and activities a nurse goes through.

The second thing I learned was that I love to write. Not just because I like to string pretty words into powerful sentences. But when I write, when I sit and force myself to make these words, sentences, and paragraphs, I force myself to feel, evaluate, and grow. That growth has made me a better person, a better nurse, a far better advocate for my patients. Since that day I have made an effort to write down the experiences I have that I am struggling to process. In my years as a NICU and then PICU nurse, these experiences have been many.

Writing has allowed me to be vulnerable in my experiences. I am a supporter of nurses being emotionally available to their patients and families, but also firmly believe that at all times we should be the strongest person in the room, not the one falling apart or needing comfort. The risk in developing this ability however, is the opposite extreme, a calloused heart. Through writing, and a decent amount of wine, I like to think I have found a balance that has allowed me to be vulnerable to myself, my family, my coworkers, and now to millions of other nurses around the world.

Last night, as I headed upstate from New York City on the bus, I watched video after video of TED talks. Two of these videos featured Elizabeth Gilbert, the author made famous by the bestseller Eat, Pray, Love. In these talks she spoke about the difficulty of returning home to what you do after great success or great failure, as well as the importance of finding your way back and continuing on.

She referred to your home as the thing that you love more than yourself. For many of us, that thing is nursing, the service to and care of others. Like a best selling writer, we too experience great success and great failure.

For us, the success is not a bestseller, nor is the failure a flopped manuscript or project. For nurses, the catapult to success or failure happens almost daily, some days I have experienced both extremes over the course of a 12hour shift. The failures may be a patient loss, an error, or even more unnerving, the inevitable entrance of burnout, that at least temporarily removes all love and passion from nursing, removes the ability to care well for your patients or yourself, and often leads you down a path to guilt and further feelings of failure.

Success may be placing an IV on the first try, having a family thank you wholeheartedly for your care. Being recognized on your unit by coworkers and administrators for the great work you do, being supported by thousands of nurses around the world for saying what we all were thinking. For many of you, today is the first of these great nursing successes, being inducted into an honor society, recognized for your academic achievements and superior performance.

But like writing a best seller, living in the glory of that success is not a permanent arrangement. It is so important to have a vehicle to bring you back to home, to the core of what is important to you. For Elizabeth Gilbert, it is the writing that brings her back, to her home as a writer. For us though, I think it is more complicated. Leaning on nursing to bring you back to that place is risky. Nursing is rarely neutral, and relying on it too greatly can cause burnout, skewed perceptions, and anxiety. For this, I feel that it is so important to have something else that brings you back to that home.

For me, it has been writing. The expression of not only what I do, but how it makes me feel. The vulnerability in expressing these successes and struggles that has time and time again brought me back to my “home” and grown me into the nurse that I am.

I urge each of you to find a vehicle that will bring you back home. That will temper success and failure and keep you neutral. It may be volunteering, working on a committee, writing, painting, or any one of many other things. Learn to find a place for vulnerability in your work as a nurse, in your life as a human. It will make all of the difference.

By the time I finished my Bachelor’s I had learned to flawlessly complete an assessment despite my arms separated by a plastic wall. I no longer needed to close my eyes to count a heart rate, my ears had become numb to the pinch of a brutal stethoscope. At the point that the anxiety over how to be a nurse shrunk away, the passion for being one crept in. I learned here at Le Moyne College to never say “Just a Nurse”, but once I had reached this point the lesson was unnecessary, that notion was suddenly so far from my truth.

I hope each of you will spend some time basking in the success of today, but that tomorrow you will start to find a reliable path back to your home. I hope that your career will be as full of passion as mine has been, as fulfilling, challenging, and rewarding. Thank you for inviting me here today. It has been my honor. Congratulations.

My parents and me after the ceremony.

My parents and me after the ceremony.

Just a Little Love Note

To My Fellow Nurses,

I have struggled for a few days to decide what to write to you all, in celebration of National Nurses Week. It seems silly that the only way most of us know each other is through what I have had to say about our profession, yet when it comes time to address it I find myself suddenly without words. (A rare and concerning state for me.) So instead of struggling to write a typical post, which I worry will come out forced or uninspired, I will simply say this.

Thank You.

Thank you for what you do for our patients. For healing along side me. For assessing, educating, and caring. For advocating for those you care for, as well as those with whom you work.

More importantly though, for today, I am going to be selfish and say thank you for what you have done for me. With every comment and response to a post I have written, with every email, Facebook share, or Tweet you have validated my feelings and allowed me to continue loving what I do. In the times that I have felt ready to give up and move on, I have been comforted to know that I am not alone. When I have felt guilty for my burnout and disenchantment you have reminded me that it is ok. You have revived me and sent me back to work with a reignited passion for what we do.

Without you, I would not be the nurse I am.

To the nurses in my life; you have laughed with me and at me, cried with me, yelled at me, advocated for me, taught me, trained me, showered me with love, comforted me, protected me, and pushed me. You have filled my life with joy and I cannot imagine finding that combination anywhere else.

To the nurses that I do not know personally, I find comfort in knowing that you have done each of these things for someone you work alongside, and they for you.

Everything I have written about I have learned from the nurses I watch and work alongside. They may be my words, but they are not my stories, my feelings, they are ours.

With an abundance of love, admiration, and appreciation,

Happy Nurses Week,

Kateri L. Allard RN, BSN

A well educated, effectively communicating, fiercely advocating nurse is a powerful thing. There is nothing “Just” about that.

Miracles

Apparently I stopped believing in miracles. I’m not sure when it happened, or actually even why.

Growing up I never believed in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny, and due to a mishap involving my first lost tooth and a furnace vent, the Tooth Fairy and I didn’t coexist in my reality for long either. Yet I always, since before I can remember, believed in miracles.

Until this past week when I realized that I don’t believe any longer.

Maybe it came from years of seemingly unanswered prayer for miraculous healing from Crohn’s Disease.

Perhaps it’s from years of working around sick and often dying children, watching time and time again as a child slips away from the arms of a pleading, bargaining, begging mother.

Maybe it comes from an unwarranted sense of control paired with perceived understanding of the world around me. The world was mysterious when I was a child, so miracles were welcome wonders. Now, there doesn’t seem to be space for them in this world I so intelligently understand.

I have stopped hoping as the parents around me hope. I have stopped praying as they do on their knees, on their feet, surely even as they lay in bed before tossing and turning for brief moments of sleep as their world crumbles down around them.

What’s worse, I have grown irritated by the irrational, unrealistic, recklessly optimistic attitudes around me. Often muttering in the privacy of my own head “are we looking at the same child, are we seeing the same thing? How can you possibly have hope? How can you possibly imagine a positive outcome?”

I have become the Grinch who stole miracles, packing my bag full of the last ounces of joy and hope, certain that no positive will come. Wishing for it, hoping for it, clinging to it is a waste of time and energy. My heart is two sizes too small. I am worse than a three decker sauerkraut and toadstool sandwich with arsenic sauce.

I recently cared for a patient near the end of his life. Medically speaking his situation was hopeless, which as a nurse, makes me feel hopeless, helpless, defeated, and failed. My usually sunny disposition melts away under my sarcasm and snark.

Because I no longer believe in miracles.

His mother came in to see him. I had prepared myself to support her, imagining she would crumble into a pile of tears, falling apart being the only possible manifestation of the hopeless emotions I was feeling amplified by her mother’s love.

Our God is faithful. She said, with a smile on her face, the sunshine of hope in her eyes.

Cancer is faithful I snipped back in my mind.

We still believe He can heal him. She continued, as if she had heard what I was thinking.

I believe that if I went home and the doctors went home, cancer would win lady, right here, right now. It is over, we lost this one.

For a brief moment my frustration turned to guilt for my lack of faith, then to jealousy for her overflowing devotion to a God I sometimes long to hear, likely due to my recent failure to ask for Him to speak.

I pulled myself back to the reality of where I stood with her. I provided updates, what we were doing for him, what his body was doing in return. In a laundry list of updates, perhaps two things were positive. She thanked me for the information, repeating back the minor positive notes I had given.

Again I began to feel my irritation welling up. Do you really not understand the gravity of this illness? I wanted to ask.

And then, yet again, as if she had heard me, she replied with this. Shrinking me back to size, putting me back in my place.

A positive attitude gives us power over our circumstances, rather than allowing our circumstances to have power over us.

I was stunned. Here I was, judging her positive attitude as a fault or a flaw. Completely disregarding the choice that it was. Similar to the choice she was making to believe God for a miracle. It wasn’t blind faith. It wasn’t negligent belief. It was strength, and devotion. The choice to believe in something more powerful than me, more healing than the doctors on our team.

When I came out of the room, tears welling in my eyes, I sat at my computer, and looked down at a small plate of candies she must have left for me on her way into the room. A hand written note was laid above them,

“Kate, your devotion is so appreciated, S.”

S, it is your devotion that I am appreciating today. And because of you, mother of my patient, I am beginning again to believe in miracles. Because in the depth of despair over losing your beloved son you took me into your arms, and guided me back onto a track where love is real, positive thinking is a choice that saves us, and miracles do happen.

So today, I too am praying for a miracle for your son. And as I pray, with a positive attitude and a humbled heart, I am referring to Psalm 30, my personal favorite, and one I know we both can love.

Today

Some days something amazing happens, the day stays solidified in your memory forever. Other days are nothing special, a series of hours stitched together with nothing unique, nothing noteworthy, nothing memorable occurring. The day passes, you go to sleep, and prepare to awake another day, not knowing whether it will be one forever in your mind, or one forgotten as a series of forgettable breaths, one after the other.

Today, so far, is one of those moment-less days. I woke up, I made coffee, I did crunches, I did laundry, I washed my floors. In three years, or even three weeks, the contents of today will be a distant memory, perhaps forgotten completely. And that’s ok.

But today, in all of its monotony, something feels different.

Today, I am aware that I am breathing. I am aware that my heart is beating. My kidneys are perfused, my brain is controlling all of the involuntary events that it needs to. I have eaten twice and my stomach is pain free. I exercised this morning, not because I have to, but because I can. I walked around the corner to the laundry mat, up and down the stairs in my building, through my apartment as I cleaned. I can walk. It isn’t work for me, I learned how to before I can remember, and I never needed to learn again.

Today, I am aware how magical and special life is. You see, not everyone woke up this morning. Not everyone is breathing on their own, not every heart is beating without assistance. Some who wanted to weren’t able to exercise today. Others had to work-out, their health is at risk if they do not. There are many who could not walk today, or as I write are spending hours sweating through learning to walk again. They once spent their days mindlessly performing tasks as I am, but due to an illness or trauma have to relearn these simple things.

Today I am thinking and breathing and circulating. And so are you! How lucky are we?

So take the energy you don’t have to spend learning to walk, trying to breath, working to communicate. Instead, pour that energy into the people around you. Love them, listen to them, try your best to understand them, accept that maybe you don’t, but love them anyways.

The coolest thing about being human is our capacity to love. Are you exercising yours to the fullest?


Everyday think as you wake up,
Today I am fortunate to have woken up.
I am alive. I have a precious human life.
I am not going to waste it.
I am going to use all of my energies to develop myself,
To expand my heart out to others.
To achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all others.
I am not going to get angry or think badly about others,
I am going to benefit others as much as I can.

-The Dalai Lama